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Lacquer Room Humor

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I’ll give you a right shellacking!

My favorite Beatle? The one that produces lac.

That’s a lakh of lac beetles.

I’m shellac-tose intolerant.

Poker in the front, shellac her in the back.

Is that wood-finish shiny? If it’s not, it’s not for a lac of trying.

These shiny beetle shells have passed their shell date.

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Lies About the Intersubstantiate

1. It cannot be viewed from space
2.it is susceptible to blandishment
3.the noble soul can do without it
4. It is not relevant to the doings of wonder workers and thaumaturges
5. It hastens not neither does it lag
6. There are proceedings of note it is not of import to
7. It convenes to judge the damned

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Language: The Thing that Means Stuff

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When I signed on to the job of Beginning Definer for the Lexicographical Committee I thought I would be good at it but I wasn’t.  My first definitions were due the next day.  I wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong with what I had.  But I didn’t feel confident.  The best one:

TABLE n A thing things go on

Seemed pretty good until I noticed it seemed identical with:

GROUND n. A thing things go on.

But I knew table wasn’t ground so they couldn’t both be right.  And some of the rest were just lousy:

GO v. Not being there anymore, opposite of stop, it makes you different place-wise, if you went someplace this thing was what you did for that

I was pretty sure “went” was just the past tense of “go” so in addition to being prolix it was tautological.

I decided to ask for some help from my supervisor on a tough one.  BIOLOGY.  All I had was

Biology: n. when a scientist or a group of scientists or someone who is not a scientist but at the moment is doing science set themselves to thinking about trees or hearts or dinosaurs etc.

“Etc.!” That was as shit-poor as my

Man: n. The one that does, loves, dies etc.

I was embarrassed to even go into my supervisor’s office.  He looked at me in the kindly way affected by bulies worldover before a pounce.

“Look here, Kaplan.  Psychology is the science of the mind.  Geology is the science of the Earth.  So biology is…”

“Um?  Knowing?  Um?  Er.  Frogs?”

“The science of life.”

“Just write that?”

“Just write that.”

So I returned to my cubicle and typed the definition on my work station.  I saw it blinking back at me.  I was alone.  The office was dark.  I had enjoyed office-mocha, a blend of coffee and swiss miss instant cocoa to give myself a boost.  I felt clammy. 

I looked at what I had typed.

“Biology n. The Science of Life”

I read it.  My supervisor had dictated it.  I should have been satisfied but I wasn’t.  Because wasn’t it ultimately unhelpful?   As unhelpful as an alien dictionary that defined the Wazzlegore as n. a tool for adjusting Bavlibonies?  What was needed, whatever my supervisor thought, smug in his office with a chair, was a definition of life!

And I realized it only scratched the surface and I started typing:

“Biology n. The science of that thing which it is you don’t have it when you are dead but it is also the thing that certain moments have, certain moments not like this one, but there will be some moments some day I am sure, also that which is possessed by some of my thoughts but not others, not the ones I have when I am here, except the ones that I have that are paradoxically of hatred and fear for my surroundings because…” 

Screen after screen filled up with my caffeinated mad but so so lucid prolixity: defining, defining, defining, and then along the way it became so obvious

Define v. Putting limits around meaning and sometimes, so help me, that’s the only way to know what’s on the other side.

And then I finished up and then put the perfect ending to my perfect forty-page definition of biology, noun.

“Opposite: definition, the science of death.”

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Faux Naivete: The Argumentative Maneuver of a Scoundrel

People are always tripping me up.  They will ask me what my idea is about x.  I’ll tell them something off the cuff.  And then it’ll turn out that they actually have thought much more deeply and cogently on the topic than I have.  And I end up looking like a fool.  Or they’ll put forward a seemingly reasonable suggestion and when I jump on board will gradually reveal why its consequences are ridiculous.

I call out Socrates and Jonathan Swift for this kind of rude and confusing argumentative behavior.

Everyone should be required to register their precise level of naivete with some sort of Bureau of Naive Registration, so before you argue with someone you can find out how naive they are for real.

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Granito Jones, Interstitial Bandito

This is a thrilling tale that excited adolescent males in the twentieth century.
Granito Jones existed in the interstitial spaces between things and realms and although he was a “bandito” he was a “bandito” for the side of good fighting a series of unscrupulous poachers, native warlocks, and bloodthirsty tribal chieftains. All these fights took place in liminal spaces e.g.

Granito Jones and the Gap Between Tuesday and Wednsday
Granito Jones and the Disputed Territory Between China and Russia
Granito Jones and the Social Sciences, Unclearly Demarcated Between Science and the Humanities
Granito Jones and the Family Restaurant — An Interstitial Reality Between the Domestic and Commercial Spheres
and the thrilling
Granito Jones and the Uneasy Moment Between Romance and Utilitarian Manipulation.

The Granito Jones series was a series of cracking-good yarns full of hair-raising cliff-hangers during which he was threatened by a headhunter, an anaconda, or a tapir.

BUT the problem is that it made adolescent United States males more confirmed in their male privilege, and indirectly led to a cowboy-like foreign policy. It was also stunningly racist.

Recently though LGBT activists, flying saucer enthusiasts, occultists and other espousers of heterodox belief systems from the past and oblique untoward philosophies have rediscovered the Insterstiail Bandito and have started writing fan fiction celebrating his exploits.

These include yarns where he grapples with: intersexuals, beings on the boundary between real and imaginary, and most importantly the boundary between truth and fiction. One such fan fiction resulted in the author actually being Granito, first as performance art, straddling the boundary between sincerity and theater, then in reality , in a work straddling the boundary between life and art. Finally straddling the boundary between the interstitial and the central he defeated a cruel headhunter , became president, was assassinated and then achieved interstitial hemi- apotheosis as a Demi-god.

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Ten Questions about Aesthetic Categories

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1. What are categories anyway?  They are like super-concepts right? 

2.What does it mean when we say that a category is universal?  Does it have to be?

3.What is special about aesthetic categories?  Is Kant right that they are not rule-based but they make claims to being true and false? 

4.Why do aesthetic judgments matter? 

5.Why do we judge people upon whether or not they share our aesthetic judgments?

6.Are aesthetic judgments universalizable in a different way than empirical judgments?  It seems like I can accept the idea that somebody just doesn’t get music more than I can get the idea of someone who just doesn’t get causation.

7.Kant talks about the sublime and the beautiful.  John Austin draws our attention to the dainty and the dumpy.  Sianne Ngai wrote a book about the cute, the zany, and the interesting.  What is a complete list of aesthetic categories?  I can think of: the awesome, the horrifying, the uncanny, the disgusting, the ugly, the funny, the weird, the disturbing, the creepy…Can you think of more?

8.Where do religious categories — Otto’s “the holy” — or Mircea Eliade’s “the sacred” fall in this list?

9.Sianne Ngai makes a distinction between catharsis-inducing aesthetic responses — the beautiful and the sublime — and minor responses that don’t provoke to action — the irritating or the cute for example.  Is this right?

10.Does the question “is the beauty in my response or in the object?” even make sense?  If it does, what does it mean?  If it doesn’t why did people think it makes sense?

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